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Tribunal dismisses refugee's claims of discrimination

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: April 20, 2013

AN African refugee who accused Virgin Atlantic of turning down his job application because of his foreign-sounding name has had his case dismissed.

Max Kpakio (right), from Townhill in Swansea, claimed he was rejected for a job interview at a call centre until he submitted a second, similar application under the "Welsh-sounding" name Craig Owen.

But Virgin Atlantic told an employment tribunal in Cardiff this week they had contacted "Craig Owen" because his application provided more relevant experience, and insisted they were an equal opportunities employer.

In a written statement, employment judge Claire Sharp concluded: "The tribunal wishes to be absolutely clear, given the press coverage, in the hearing bundle that the claimant did not merely change the names and ethnicity in the two applications; they were different applications and the false application was clearly designed to meet the respondent's criteria for the role."

She added: "The claimant's race played no part in the decision not to progress his application."

Mr Kpakio, of Dyfed Avenue, arrived in the UK in 2002 with his three children to escape civil war in his native Liberia and is now a British citizen.

He had told the tribunal: "I'm not here for compensation but for justice for everyone who has my faith.

"If I win I'm not asking for money — I just want an apology and I want justice."

It emerged during the tribunal that he had originally been claiming £55,000 from the company, for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.

The judging panel was told that although parts of the two applications were similar there were also important differences.

They included the claim on Craig Owen's CV that he was familiar with using live chat facilities online, a skill important to the job, but Mr Kpakio's did not. Mr Kpakio also admitted he had not included customer service advisor experience on his CV while he had on Craig Owen's.

Giving evidence, Virgin human resources co-ordinator Charlotte Day said: "The ethnic background of applicants does not make a difference. I am really upset to have been accused in this way of discrimination."

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